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Norman Barrows

Innovations in FPS/RPGs

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In recent fps and rpg games, what gameplay and interface features have you noticed that are new/different/innovative - _and_ better?
I've been evaluating Skyrim (finally got sufficient internet signal to install it via steam).
Obviously, the graphics are beautiful - as expected.  Some of the innovations vis a vis Oblivion are interesting. the number of stats have been reduced to just 3, and classes have been eliminated. The look and feel of the interface is much cleaner.
So, what features in recent fps and rps games have impressed you recently?
At any point in time there are always certain titles that ought to be looked at, for a given feature, to see how it ought to be done.
At this point in time, what fps and rpg type titles do you think those would be, and for which features?

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Bleh I haven't played enough recent games...  But if there's anyone who hasn't yet played a game of the Disgaea series, a game of the Okami series, and a recent Zelda series game (twilight Princess or newer) then I'd definitely recommend those.  One of the Harvest Moon series would also be a good choice - Save The Homeland and Magical Melody both have unique elements.  I'd recommend playing at least one WoW-like MMO to experience faction reputation and other features, but anyone who hasn't played a wow-like MMO yet is probably strongly opposed to the idea and can't be talked into it, lol.  Ooh and a crafting-focused MMO too (rather than minecraft I'd pick A Tale In The Desert or Wurm Online - there's a free single player game in this style too, called Survival II Stranded II.

Edited by sunandshadow

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Hmm, interface at first.


In recent fps and rpg games, what gameplay and interface features have you noticed that are new/different/innovative - _and_ better?


I have a problem with the interface question because it requires an opinion. To me it's like writing a technical document, only write as much as you need.



Your interfaces should be accessible, readable, and as minimal as possible without obfuscation of important information. Application software is a nice go-to for interfaces, the worst examples seem to be Microsoft Office. If you ever hide common features on the 3rd tab at the 4th group in the properties of the 2nd tab, there is no entry, you will need to look up a tutorial.


Also, new vocabulary may sound smart, it just makes your anti new user barrier of understanding stronger.


I will take a generic interface and run with it as long as there's nothing missing.

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  • RPGs tend to be text heavy. Using the concept dual coding (colorizing labels and names) in a consistent manner is great. In Torchlight this was done in a nice manner. Items with orange was always unique and positive numbers (for me) was green. 
  • A UI must always be usable. Designers tend to want to make the interface immersive, but this can very, very easily backfire. Skyrim is a good example of this, with their lists of items that can't be grouped or categorized. I know it's built for console first, but still.
  • Minigames and puzzles are a nice feature, but if they are too simple there should be a option to automate them. 
  • Colorizing the screen to indicate damage is always great!

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Apart from the improved graphics, modern FPS games tend to have improvements in their networking code as well since the focus of many of them has been networked multi-player. I'd say that a couple of the most innovative shooters in recent years are actually a few years old now - Mirror's Edge and Portal. These two games managed to break away from shooting enemies as the main way to interact with the world. Portal managed to make a good three-dimensional sokoban game, and what I've played of Mirror's Edge showed me that it's a game about using parkour to run away from people that are trying to shoot you.


Another not-so-recent innovation was in how Halo handled health and shields. It used to be that levels were littered with health packs and armor to replenish lost health and armor. Entering a room with 5 enemies could be a cakewalk at full health and shields, but a frustrating experience when the player only has 5 health left and no more armor. Halo changed this by having the player's shields regenerate after combat encounters. It made it easier for the level designers to know how difficult each combat encounter would be because they knew that the player would enter each new encounter with full shields. Later games in the series also regenerate the player's health with the shields.


I haven't seen a lot of innovation in the RPG or jRPG market recently. Radiant Historia and The World Ends With You, both for Nintendo DS, are good examples of recent innovation in jRPGs. Radiant Historia structured their story on two different timelines based on a choice the hero makes and the consequences of that choice. Its innovation is that you can always travel back to the point where you make a choice that affects the story and see what would happen if you made the other choice. Unfortunately, in 99% of the choices there really is only one right choice and the other leads to a game over. The World Ends With You was innovative in its controls - the player engages in 2 real-time combat encounters at once - one on each screen of the DS.


In the world of tabletop RPGs, Wizards of the Coast is currently testing the next edition of D&D. They're also currently attempting to make adventure modules that can be played in multiple editions of D&D. Bad planning on their part if you ask me - they're now creating three times as much content to fit into three different rule systems. Their playerbase broke into 2 main camps - players that prefer 3.5 (many of which left for Pathfinder) and players that prefer 4th edition. Adding another edition to the mix is the wrong way to solve that problem.


It also might be a good idea to look at recent games that combine these two genres.


Recent-ish RPG/FPS Games

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Borderlands 2

The main thing that these 3 games have in common is that there are multiple ways to handle each encounter depending on how the player customizes their character. It's the customization that makes these games great because the player isn't locked into one style of play. For example, I tend to favor stealth instead of charging in with guns blazing.

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Bleh I haven't played enough recent games... 


doesn't necessarily have to be recent. just thought it would be more likely in a recent title.


what non-recent games come to mind that had good innovative interface and / or gameplay elements, and what were those elements?


i've heard things good things about harvest moon before.


what aspects of the titles you mentioned were special ?

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I have a problem with the interface question because it requires an opinion


yes, whether an interface feature is "good", or whether a gameplay feature is "good" are both matters of opinion. but places where a common opinion are widely held would point to superior interface or gameplay features. IE if everyone says feature X in game Y is cool and well done, than feature X as implemented in game Y would be something any decent gamedev worth his salt ought to be checking out.


i used the term "recent titles" in the original post, because any superior designs from older titles would most likely be widely adopted by now, but that's really not a safe assumption. the features must be both superior and well known to be widely adopted.  IE if feature A in game B totally rocks, but game B gets almost zero exposure, its unlikely feature A will find its way into any other games.

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excellent responses all.


please keep them coming!


i think i'll start a second thread with just fps in the title. i'm interested in innovations in interface and gameplay there as well. 


rpg's seem to be becoming more strmlined and like a fps title. fps titles seem to be adding more options and rpg elements.


sort of a convergence of the two designs. but each comes at it from a different direction, one founded in stuff like table top classic D&D, and the other tracing its roots back to 2d jump and shoot arcade games - IE Commander Keen, etc. 


but i find that many 1pv / 3pv rpg's still seem to lack a true open world design driven by random encounters. many seem to follow the fps level design method. have i just been looking at the wrong games? 

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This isn't a released game but star citizens gameplay promises the ability to explore a vast universe (like any MMO) as various rolls (like any MMO) in a spaceship (like eve online or mass effect). The innovative aspects for this game are the skill of cooperatively and dynamically boarding another ship (the transition from space combat sim to FPS) to steal the cargo or the entire ship. As well as the economy driven quest system which I feel is unique to the MMO world, where missions are spawned not because a certain NPC or artifact will always deliver a task for your to preform after the cooldown is complete from another another player doing the exact same thing. These missions are created because universe is driven by the needs of a capitalist society and players fill the role of keeping that system running. When an NPC's factory that makes the missiles you buy runs out of explosives, that mission is spawned for anyone carry out. Lastly is an aesthetic aspect however I think it will alter a players gameplay as well. Each unique ship type in the game will have a unique HUD and distinct way to play it. However the art behind the HUD of each ship will create a unique challenge of understanding the data and using it to master that type of ship. Not a huge innovation but I strongly feel this will make the game feel impressively broad in its content. Since this is the eyes the players see through for most the game. 


As for specifically RPGs I don't really feel like that genre has stretched its legs much since the exploration of MMOs, cooperative RPGs, the bridge between action RPGs and shooters. In a way all genres as picking pieces from the genre but if your a purest you'd almost say the genre stagnated a long time ago (this could be said of most any genre since much of today's innovation is exploring cross genre game play). Probably the biggest thing to happen to RPG elements is their implementation to RTS in the form of MOBA game play. I realize very little of a MOBA is an RPG, but the elements that are taken from RPG games make MOBAs better. 


My 2 cents.

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Hmm.. innovation.

I think that just doing something new for the shake of doing something new isn't a good thing at all times.

Because change can go many ways.

Now regarding FPSs,personally I think they devolve instead of evolving.

I am saying that because the amount of things a game requires from a player gets minimized as time passes by. Unfortunately (for me at least) single player FPSs are becoming so simplistic I tend to loose any interest on them.

According to my opinion the ideal evolution would be if the experience was getting richer as time passed by,not emptier.


Let's compare two FPSs for example: Duke Nukem 3D and Battlefield 3.

The amount of things the player can do in Duke Nukem 3D are quite numerous and add to a variety of different mechanics and stuff the player can do in it.

So except from just walking and shooting 'regular' enemies,the game also features bosses. And bosses need special tactics to be beaten,so the player has to do new different stuff from what he was doing earlier. There are also flooded parts. In these the player can swim,and he can get a Scuba suit as a powerup to help him swim longer. Things like these add pieces of gameplay variation that keeps the overall experience of the game from becoming stale. It also has platforming sections. Yet if you don't like platforming, it gives you jetpacks so you can just fly over this part so you don't get frustrated.It also has hazards that you have to avoid,or use special protective boots.


The point is that Duke Nukem 3d,a game made in 1996 had quite more ways to engage a player,and was asking from the player a lot more things to process with his mind to play it. That made the game feel overall funnier to play than let's say Battlefield 3. Why ? Because the amount of thinking and devotion it required from was more,and thus it was more engaging. In BF3 You feel more like watching a movie that you have to keep pressing buttons every once in a while to keep it playing. And while some people may enjoy this type of activity,to have a movie play and being congratulated for minimal engagement, and feeling like you did something,for those who actually seek to earn their congratulations through some challenge,it isn't as much enjoyable.


I think you might be familiar of the typical crosswords found in general magazines. 

The fun of playing crosswords is to come up with the answers by thinking,and filling them in the blocks.

If someone took crosswords and on the area with the hints instead of writing the hints he wrote the actual words that you would have to fill in the blocks,and all you had to do was copy the answers to the blocks,well it wouldn't be funny to the original crosswords player,would it ?

Perhaps some people might liked that for their own reasons,but the whole point and essence of playing crosswords for someone who grew up liking crosswords for what they were would be lost.

Because what gave people who like original crosswords fun,isn't there on new crosswords anymore.


Well that's pretty much how I feel about modern FPSs.

Having grown up with the FPSs of the 90s, I feel that modern ones like BF3 and Medal of Honor miss the initial point and essence of the genre,and while watching their storylines can be engaging,playing them feels like a chore needed to be done for the shake of watching the story progressing and finish them,to justify that I didn't spent my money without reason. But games shouldn't be like that. Games should be played because the very activity of playing them is fun.

And if someone is having fun by watching a movie with interaction sections in the middle,I'm OK with that,but at least someone would have to say "I'm making an interactive movie" instead of saying "I'm making a cinematic game".

The confusion exists because pretty much anything that is electronic and interactive these days is called a "game". Someone could even say that writing a forum post is a video game too,with the same logic.

The moment having the best cutscenes and voiceovers became more important than having the best gameplay,the line of dinstinction between video games and interactive movies started blurring.


Now regarding RPGs,the Elder Scrolls series have been in the process of limiting the amount of things the player has to keep in his mind since Morrowind.

You see,the thing is that there is a new audience of people who play videogames,and that audience doesn't like activities that require much thinking. So FPSs,RPGs,and many other genres are getting through a simplification process that removes features and depth for the shake of becoming easier for people who doesn't want to invest in spending time playing the game to learn how to play it. It's people who want to become masters of a trade without having to learn it and practice it.

And the fact that the majority seems to cater to them is what makes some others feel that games are loosing their essence.


It's like someone sees an NBA match for the first time and decides he wants to be an NBA player too,and the sports teams for not loosing him change the rules of basketball so someone can hold the ball like a rugby ball instead of having to dribble. Perhaps that way the newcomers might be able to get what they want,and the sports teams might make more money,but for all those that learnt basketball with dribbling,the new basketball won't be basketball any more. They might give up entirely. Or... start building their own basketball team,so there is a basketball team that plays the old basketball way.

Edited by Stavros Dimou

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